The Garden of Romance/The Story of the Lame Young Man
The Garden of Romance
THE STORY OF THE LAME YOUNG MAN
Told by the Tailor
From The Arabian Nights
A merchant, sire, of this city did me the honour two days since of inviting me to an entertainment which he gave yesterday morning to his friends; I repaired to his house at an early hour, and found about twenty people assembled.
We were waiting for the master of the house, who was gone out on some sudden business, when we saw him arrive, accompanied by a young stranger, very neatly dressed, and of a good figure, but lame. We all rose, and to do honour to the master of the house, we begged the young man to sit with us on the sofa. He was just going to sit down, when, perceiving a barber, who was one of the company, he abruptly stepped back, and was going away. The master of the house, surprised at this, stopped him. "Where are you going?" said he; "I bring you here to do me the honour of being present at an entertainment I am going to give my friends, and you are scarcely entered before you want to go away!" "In the name of God, sir," replied the stranger, "I entreat you not to detain me, but suffer me to depart. I cannot behold without horror that abominable barber who is sitting there; although he is born in a country where the complexion of the people is white, yet he bears the colour of an Ethiopian; and his mind is of a still deeper and more horrible dye than his visage."
We were all very much surprised at this speech, and began to conceive a very bad opinion of the barber, without knowing whether the young stranger had any just reason for speaking of him in such terms. We even went so far as to declare that we would not suffer at our table a man of whom we had heard so shocking a character. The master of the house begged the stranger to acquaint us with the occasion of his hatred to the barber. "Gentlemen," said the young man, "you must know that this barber was the cause of my being lame, and also of the most cruel affair that you can possibly conceive, which befell me; for this reason I have made a vow to quit instantly any place where he may be, and even not to reside in any town where he lives; for this reason I left Bagdad, where he was, and undertook so long a journey to come and settle myself in this city, where, being in the centre of Great Tartary, I flattered myself I should be secure of never beholding him again. However, contrary to my hopes and expectations, I find him here; this obliges me, gentlemen, to deprive myself of the honour of partaking of your feast. I will this day leave your city, and go to hide myself, if I can, in some place where he can never again offend my sight." In saying this, he was going to leave us, but the master of the house still detained him, and entreated him to relate to us the cause of the aversion he had against the barber, who all this time kept his eyes fixed on the ground, and was silent. We joined our entreaties to those of the master of the house, and at last the young man, yielding to our wishes, seated himself on the sofa, and began his history in these words, having first turned his back towards the barber, lest he should see him:
"My father, who lived in Bagdad, was of a rank to aspire to the highest offices of state, but he preferred leading a quiet and tranquil life to all the honours he might deserve. I was his only child, and when he died I had completed my education, and was of an age to dispose of the large possessions he had bequeathed me. I did not dissipate them in folly, but made such use of them as procured me the esteem of every one.
"I had not yet felt any tender passion, and far from being at all sensible to love, I will confess, perhaps to my shame, that I carefully avoided the society of women. One day, as I was walking in a street, I saw a great number of ladies coming towards me; in order to avoid them, I turned into a little street that was before me, and sat down on a bench that was placed near a door. I was opposite to a window where there was a number of very fine flowers, and my eyes were fixed on them, when the window opened, and a lady appeared, whose beauty dazzled me. She cast her eyes on me, and watering the flowers with a hand whiter than alabaster, she looked at me with a smile, which inspired me with as much love for her as I had hitherto felt aversion towards the rest of her sex. After having watered her flowers, and bestowed on me another look full of charms, which completed the conquest of my heart, she shut the window, and left me in a state of pain and uncertainty which I cannot describe.
"I should have remained thus a considerable time, had not the noise I heard in the street brought me to my senses again. I turned my head as I got up, and saw that it was one of the first cadis of the city, mounted on a mule, and accompanied by five or six of his people: he alighted at the door of the house where the young lady had opened the window, and went in, which made me suppose he was her father.
"I returned home in a state very different from that in which I had left it; agitated by a passion so much the more violent from its being the first attack, I went to bed with a raging fever, which caused great affliction in my household. My relations, who loved me, alarmed by my sudden indisposition, came quickly to see me, and importuned me to acquaint them of the cause, but I was very careful to keep it secret. My silence increased their alarms, nor could the physicians dissipate their fears for my safety, because they knew nothing of my disease, which was only increased by the medicines they administered.
"My relations began to despair of my life, when an old lady of their acquaintance, being informed of my illness, arrived; she considered me with a great deal of attention, and after she had thoroughly examined me, she discovered, I know not by what token, the cause of my disorder. She took them aside, and begged them to leave her alone with me, and to order my people to retire.
"The room being cleared, she seated herself near my pillow. 'My son,' said she, 'you have hitherto persisted in concealing the cause of your illness: nor do I require you to confess it: I have sufficient experience to penetrate into this secret, and I am sure you will not disown what I am going to declare. It is love which occasions your indisposition. I can probably assist your cure, provided you will tell me who is the happy lady that has been able to wound a heart so insensible as yours; for you have the reputation of not liking the ladies, and I have not been the last to perceive it; however, what I foresaw is at last come to pass, and I shall be delighted if I can be of any service in releasing you from your pain.'
"The old lady having finished this speech, waited to hear my answer; but although it had made a strong impression on me, I did not dare open my heart to her. I only turned towards her and uttered a deep sigh, without saying a word. 'Is it shame,' continued she, 'that prevents you from speaking, or is it want of confidence in my power to relieve you? Can you doubt the effects of my promise? I could mention to you an infinite number of young people of your acquaintance who have endured the same pain that you do, and for whom I have obtained consolation.'
"In short, the good lady said so many things to me, that at length I broke silence, and declared to her the cause of my pain. I acquainted her with the place where I had seen the object that had given birth to it, and related all the circumstances of the adventure. 'If you succeed,' continued I, 'and procure me the happiness of seeing this enchanting beauty, and of expressing to her the passion with which I burn, you may rely on my gratitude.' 'My son,' replied the old lady, 'I know the person you mention; she is, as you justly suppose, the daughter of the principal cadi in this city. I am not surprised that you should love her; she is the most beautiful, as well as most amiable, lady in Bagdad; but what grieves me is, she is very haughty and difficult of access. You know that many of our officers of justice are very exact in making women observe the harsh laws which subject them to so irksome a restraint; they are still more strict in their own families, and the cadi you saw is himself alone more rigid on this point than all the others put together. As they are continually preaching to their daughters the enormity of the crime of showing themselves to men, the poor things are in general so cautious of being guilty of it, that when necessity obliges them to walk in the streets, they make no use of their eyes but to guide them on their way; I do not say that this is absolutely the case with the daughter of the principal cadi, yet I am much afraid of having as great obstacles to overcome on her side as on her father's. Would to Heaven you loved any other lady! I should not have so many difficulties as I foresee to surmount. I will nevertheless employ all my address, but it will require time to succeed. At any rate, take courage, and place confidence in me.'
"The old lady left me, and as I reflected with anxiety on all the obstacles she had represented to me, the fear that she would not succeed possessed me, and increased my disease. She returned the following day, and I soon read in her countenance that she had no favourable intelligence to announce. She said, 'My son, I was not mistaken; I have more to surmount than merely the vigilance of a father; you love an insensible object, who delights in letting those burn with unrequited passion who suffer themselves to be charmed with her beauty; she will not allow them the least relief; she listened to me with pleasure whilst I talked to her only of the pain she made you suffer, but no sooner did I open my mouth to persuade her to allow you an interview, than she cast an angry look at me, and said, 'You are very insolent to attempt to make such a proposition; and I desire you will never see me more, if it be only to hold such conversations as this.'
"'But let not that afflict you,' continued the old lady; 'I am not easily discouraged, and provided you do not lose your patience, I hope at last to accomplish my design.' Not to protract my narration (said the young man), I will only say that this good messenger made several fruitless attempts in my favour with the haughty enemy of my peace. The vexation I endured increased my disorder to such a degree, that the physicians gave me over. I was therefore considered as a man who was at the point of death, when the old lady came to give me new life.
"That no one might hear her, she whispered in my ear, 'Think of the present you will make me for the good news I bring you.' These words produced a wonderful effect; I raised myself in my bed, and replied with transport, 'The present will not be deficient; what have you to tell me?' 'My dear sir,' resumed she, 'you will not die this time, and I shall soon have the pleasure of seeing you in perfect health, and well satisfied with me; yesterday being Monday, I went to the lady you are in love with, and found her in very good humour; I at first put on a mournful countenance, uttered an abundance of sighs, and shed some tears. 'My good mother,' said she, 'what is the matter? Why are you in such affliction?' 'Alas! my dear and honourable lady,' replied I, 'I am just come from the young gentleman I spoke to you of the other day; it is all over with him; he is at the point of death, and all for love of you; it is a great pity, I assure you, and you are very cruel.' 'I do not know,' said she, 'why you should accuse me of being the cause of his death; how can I have contributed to his illness?' 'How?' replied I; 'did I not tell you that he seated himself before your window just as you opened it to water your flowers? He beheld this prodigy of beauty—these charms which your mirror reflects every day; from that moment he has languished for you, and his disease is so augmented, that he is now reduced to the pitiable state I have had the honour of describing to you. You may remember, madam,' continued I, 'how rigorously you treated me lately when I was going to tell you of his illness, and propose to you a method of relieving him from his dangerous condition: I returned to him after I left you, and he no sooner perceived from my countenance that I did not bring a favourable account, than his malady redoubled its violence. From that time, madam, he has been in the most imminent danger of death, and I do not know whether you could now save his life even if you were inclined to take pity on him.'
"'This was what I said to her,' added the old lady. 'The fear of your death staggered her, and I saw her face change colour. 'Is what you say to me quite true,' said she; 'and does his illness proceed only from his love of me?' 'Ah, madam,' replied I, 'it is but too true; would to Heaven it were false!' 'And do you really think,' resumed she, 'that the hope of seeing and speaking to me could contribute to diminish the peril of his situation?' 'It very likely may,' said I; 'and if you desire me, I will try this remedy.' 'Well, then,' replied she, sighing, 'let him hope that he may see me, but he must not expect any other favours, unless he aspires to marry me, and my father gives his consent!' 'Madam,' said I, 'you are very good; I will go directly to this young gentleman, and announce to him that he will have the pleasure of seeing and conversing with you.' 'I do not know,' said she, 'that I can fix a more convenient time to do him this favour than on Friday next during the midday prayer. Let him observe when my father goes out to attend at the mosque; and then let him come immediately before this house, if he is well enough to go abroad. I shall see him arrive from my window, and will come down to let him in. We will converse together while prayers last, and he can retire before my father returns.'
"'This is Tuesday,' continued the old lady; 'between this and Friday you will be sufficiently recovered to encounter this interview.' Whilst the good lady was talking, I felt my disorder diminish, or rather by the time she concluded her discourse, I found myself quite recovered. 'Take this,' said I, giving her my purse, which was quite full, 'to you alone I owe my cure; I think this money better employed than all I have given to the physicians, who have done nothing but torment me during my illness.'
"The lady having left me, I found myself sufficiently strong to get up. My relations, delighted to see me so much better, congratulated me on my recovery, and took their leave.
"Friday morning being arrived, the old lady came whilst I was dressing, and making choice of the handsomest dress my wardrobe contained, 'I do not ask you.' said she, 'how you find yourself; the occupation you are engaged in sufficiently convinces me of what I am to think; but will not you bathe before you go to the principal cadi's?' 'That would take up too much time,' replied I; 'I shall content myself with sending for a barber to shave my head and beard.' I then ordered one of my slaves to seek one who was expert in his business, as well as expeditious.
"The slave brought me this unlucky barber, who is here present. After having saluted me, he said, 'Sir, by your countenance you seem to be unwell.' I replied that I was recovering from a very severe illness. 'I wish God may preserve you from all kinds of evils,' continued he, 'and may His grace accompany you everywhere.' 'I hope He will grant this wish,' said I, 'for which I am much obliged to you.' 'As you are now recovering from illness,' resumed he, 'I pray God that He will preserve you in health. Now tell me, what is your pleasure; I have brought my razors and my lancets; do you wish me to shave, or to bleed you?' 'Did I not tell you,' returned I, 'that I am recovering from illness? You may suppose then that I did not send for you to bleed me. Be quick and shave me, and do not lose time in talking, for I am in a hurry, and have an appointment precisely at noon.'
"The barber employed a great deal of time in undoing his apparatus, and preparing his razors; and then, instead of putting water into his basin, he drew out of his case an astrolabe, went out of my room, and walked into the middle of the court with a sedate step, to take the height of the sun. He returned with the same gravity, and on entering the chamber, 'You will, no doubt, be glad to learn, sir,' said he, 'that this Friday is the eighteenth day of the moon of Safar, in the year six hundred and fifty-three (the year of the Hegira, an epoch from which all the Mahometans reckon) since the retreat of our great prophet from Mecca to Medina, and in the year seven thousand three hundred and twenty of the epoch of the great Iskander with the two horns; and that the conjunction of Mars and Mercury signifies that you cannot choose a better time than the present day and present hour to be shaved. But on the other side, this conjunction forms a bad presage for you. It demonstrates to me, that you this day will encounter a great danger; not indeed of losing your life, but of an inconvenience which will remain with you all your days; you ought to be obliged to me for advertising you to be careful of this misfortune; I should be sorry that it befell you.'
"Judge, gentlemen, of my vexation, of having fallen in the way of this chattering and ridiculous barber; what a mortifying delay for a lover, who was preparing for a tender meeting with his mistress! I was quite exasperated. 'I care very little,' said I angrily, 'either for your advice or your predictions; I did not send for you to consult you on astrology; you came here to shave me; therefore either perform your office, or take yourself away, that I may send for another barber.'
"'Sir,' replied he, in a tone so phlegmatic, that I could scarcely contain myself, 'what reason have you to be angry? Do not you know that all barbers are not like me, and that you would not find another such, even if you had him made on purpose. You only asked for a barber, and in my person are united the best barber of Bagdad, an experienced physician, a profound chemist, a never-failing astrologer, a finished grammarian, a perfect rhetorician, a subtle logician; a mathematician, thoroughly accomplished in geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, and in all the refinements of algebra; an historian who is acquainted with the history of all the kingdoms in the universe. Besides these sciences, I am well instructed in all the points of philosophy; and have my memory well stored with all our laws and all our traditions. I am a poet, an architect; but what am I not? There is nothing in Nature concealed from me. Your late honoured father, to whom I pay a tribute of tears every time I think of him, was fully convinced of my merit. He loved me, caressed me, and never ceased quoting me in all companies, as the first man in the whole world. My gratitude and friendship for him attaches me to you; and urges me to take you under my protection, and insure you from all the misfortunes with which the planets may threaten you.'
"At this speech, notwithstanding my anger, I could not help laughing. 'When do you mean to have done, impertinent chatterer,' cried I, 'and when do you intend to begin shaving me?'
"'Sir,' replied the barber, 'you do me an injury by calling me a chatterer: every one, on the contrary, bestows on me the honourable appellation of silent. I had six brothers whom you might with some reason have termed chatterers, and that you may be acquainted with them, the eldest was named Bacbouc, the second Bakbarah, the third Bakbac, the fourth Alcouz, the fifth Alnaschar, and the sixth Schacabac. These were indeed most tiresome talkers, but I, who am the youngest of the family, am very grave and concise in my discourses.'
"Place yourselves in my situation, gentlemen; what could I do with so cruel a tormentor? 'Give him three pieces of gold,' said I to the slave who overlooked the expenses of my house, 'and send him away, that I may be at peace; I will not be shaved to-day.' 'Sir!' cried the barber at hearing this, 'what am I to understand, sir, by these words? It was not I who came to seek you; it was you who ordered me to come; and that being the case, I swear by the faith of a Mussulman, that I will not quit your house till I have shaved you. If you do not know my worth, it is no fault of mine; your late honoured father was more just to my merits. Every time when he sent for me to bleed him he used to make me sit down by his side, and then it was delightful to hear the clever things I entertained him with. I kept him in continual admiration; I enchanted him; and when I had done, 'Ah,' he would exclaim, 'you are an inexhaustible fund of science; no one can approach the profoundness of your knowledge.' 'My dear sir,' I used to reply, 'you do me more honour than I deserve. If I say a good thing, I am indebted to you for the favourable hearing you are so good as to grant me: it is your liberality that inspires me with those sublime ideas, which have the good fortune to meet your approbation.' One day, when he was quite charmed with an admirable discourse I had just concluded, 'Give him,' cried he, 'an hundred pieces of gold, and put on him one of my richest robes!' I received this present immediately; and at the same instant I drew out his horoscope, which I found to be one of the most fortunate in the world. I carried the proofs of my gratefulness still farther, for I cupped him instead of bleeding him with a lancet.'
"He did not stop here; he began another speech which lasted a full half-hour. Fatigued with hearing him, and vexed at finding the time pass without my getting forward, I knew not what more to say. 'No, indeed,' at length I exclaimed, 'it is not possible that there should exist in the whole world a man who takes a greater delight in enraging people.'
"I then thought I might succeed better by gentle means. 'In the name of God,' I said to him, 'leave off your fine speeches, and finish with me quickly: I have an affair of the greatest importance, which obliges me to go out, as I have already told you.' At these words he began to laugh. 'It would be very praiseworthy,' said he, 'if our minds were always wise and prudent; however, I am willing to believe, that when you put yourself in a passion with me, it was your late illness which occasioned this change in your temper; on this account, therefore, you are in need of some instructions, and you cannot do better than follow the example of your father and your grandfather: they used to come and consult me in all their affairs; and I may safely say without vanity, that they were always the better for my advice. Let me tell you, sir, that a man scarcely ever succeeds in any enterprise, if he has not recourse to the opinions of enlightened persons: no man becomes clever, says the proverb, unless he consults a clever man. I am entirely at your service, and you have only to command me.'
"'Cannot I then persuade you,' interrupted I, 'to desist from these long speeches, which tend to no purpose but to distract my head, and prevent me from keeping my appointment: shave me directly, or leave my house.' In saying this I arose, and angrily struck my foot against the ground.
"When he saw that I was really exasperated with him, 'Sir,' said he, 'do not be angry; we are going to begin directly.' In fact, he washed my head, and began to shave me; but he had not made four strokes with his razor when he stopped to say, 'Sir, you are hasty; you should abstain from these gusts of passion, which only come from the devil. Besides which, I deserve that you should have some respect for me on account of my age, my knowledge, and my striking virtues.'
"'Go on shaving me,' said I, interrupting him again, 'and speak no more.' 'That is to say,' replied he, 'that you have some pressing affair on your hands; I'll lay a wager that I am not mistaken.' 'Why, I told you so two hours ago,' returned I; 'you ought to have shaved me long since.' 'Moderate your ardour,' replied he; 'perhaps you have not considered well of what you are going to do; when one does anything precipitately, it is almost always a source of repentance. I wish you would tell me what this affair is that you are in such haste about, and I will give you my opinion on it; you have plenty of time, for you are not expected till noon, and it will not be noon these three hours.' 'That is nothing to me,' said I; 'people of honour, who keep their word, are always before the time appointed. But I perceive that in reasoning thus with you, I am imitating the faults of chattering barbers; finish shaving me quickly.'
"The more anxious I was for despatch, the less so was he to obey me. He left his razor to take up his astrolabe; and when he put down his astrolabe, he took up his razor.
"He got his astrolabe the second time, and left me half-shaved to go and see what o'clock it was precisely. He returned. 'Sir,' said he, 'I was certain I was not mistaken; it wants three hours to noon, I am well assured, or all the rules of astronomy are false.' 'Gracious heaven!' cried I, 'my patience is exhausted, I can hold out no longer. Cursed barber, ill-omened barber, I can hardly refrain from falling upon thee and strangling thee.' 'Softly, sir,' said he coolly, and without showing any emotion and anger, 'you seem to have no fear of bringing on your illness again; do not be so passionate, and you shall be shaved in a moment.' Saying this, he put the astrolabe in his case, took his razor, which he sharpened on the strop that was fastened to his girdle, and began to shave me; but whilst he was shaving me he could not help talking. 'If you would, sir,' said he, 'inform me what this affair is that will engage you at noon, I would give you some advice, which you might find serviceable.' To satisfy him I told him that some friends expected me at noon to regale me, and rejoice with me on my recovery.
"No sooner had the barber heard me mention a feast, than he exclaimed, 'God bless you on this day as well as on every other; you bring to my mind, that yesterday I invited four or five friends to come and regale with me to-day; I had forgotten it, and have not made any preparations for them.' 'Let not that embarrass you,' said I; 'although I am going out, my table is always well supplied, and I make you a present of all that is intended for it to-day; I will also give you as much wine as you want, for I have some most excellent in my cellar; but then you must be quick in finishing to shave me; and remember that instead of making you presents to hear you talk, as my father did, I give them to you to be silent.'
"He was not content to rely on my word. 'May God recompense you,' cried he, 'for the favour you do me; but show me directly these provisions, that I may judge if there will be enough to regale my friends handsomely; for I wish them to be satisfied with the good cheer I shall give them.' 'I have,' said I, 'a lamb, six capons, a dozen of fowls, and sufficient for four courses.' I gave orders to a slave to produce all that, together with four large jugs of wine. 'This is well,' replied the barber, 'but we shall want some fruit, and something for sauce to the meat.' I desired what he wanted to be given him. He left off shaving me to examine each thing separately, and as this examination took up nearly half-an-hour, I stamped and swore; but I might amuse myself as I pleased, the rascal did not hurry a bit the more. At length, however, he again took up the razor and shaved for a few minutes, then stopping suddenly, 'I should never have supposed, sir,' said he, 'that you had been of so liberal a turn; I begin to discover that your late father, of honoured memory, lives a second time in you; certainly I did not deserve the favours you heap on me, and I assure you that I shall retain an eternal sense of the obligation; for, sir, that you may know it in future, I will tell you that I have nothing but what I get from generous people like yourself, in which I resemble Zantout, who rubs people at the bath, and Sali, who sells little burnt peas about the streets, and Salouz, who sells beans, and Akerscha, who sells herbs, and Abou Mekares, who waters the streets to lay the dust, and Cassem, who belongs to the caliph's guard: all these people give no reception to melancholy; they are neither sorrowful nor quarrelsome; better satisfied with their fortune than the caliph himself in the midst of his court, they are always gay and ready to dance and sing, and they have each their peculiar dance and song, with which they entertain the whole city of Bagdad; but what I esteem the most in them is, that they are none of them great talkers any more than your slave, who has the honour of speaking to you. Here, sir, I will give you the song and the dance of Zantout, who rubs the people at the bath; look at me, and you will see an exact imitation.'
"The barber sung the song and danced the dance of Zantout; and notwithstanding all I could say to make him cease his buffoonery, he would not stop till he had imitated in the same way all those he had mentioned. After that, 'Sir,' said he, 'I am going to invite all these good people to my house, and if you will take my advice, you will be of our party, and leave your friends, who are perhaps great talkers, and will only disturb you by their tiresome conversations, and will make you relapse into an illness still worse than that from which you are just recovered; instead of which, at my house you will only enjoy pleasure.'
"Notwithstanding my anger, I could not avoid laughing at his folly. 'I wish,' said I, 'that I had no other engagement, and I would gladly accept your proposal; I would with all my heart make one of your jolly set, but I must entreat you to excuse me, I am too much engaged to-day; I shall be more at liberty another day, and we will have this party: finish shaving me, and hasten to return, for perhaps your friends are already arrived.' 'Sir,' replied he, 'do not refuse me the favour I ask of you. Come and amuse yourself with the good company I shall have; if you had once been with such people, you would have been so pleased with them that you would give up your friends for them.' 'Say no more about it,' said I; 'I cannot be present at your feast.'
"I gained nothing by gentleness. 'Since you will not come with me,' replied the barber, 'you must allow me then to accompany you. I will go home with the provisions you have given me; my friends shall eat of them if they like, and I will return immediately. I cannot commit such an incivility as to suffer you to go alone—you deserve this piece of complaisance on my part.' 'Good Heaven,' exclaimed I, on hearing this, 'am I then condemned to bear this whole day so tormenting a creature! In the name of the great God,' said I to him, 'finish your tiresome speeches; go to your friends, eat and drink, and entertain yourselves, and leave me at liberty to go to mine. I will go alone, and do not want any one to accompany me; and indeed if you must know the truth, the place where I am going is not one in which you can be received—I only can be admitted.' 'You are joking, sir,' replied he; 'if your friends have invited you to an entertainment, what reason can prevent me from accompanying you? You will give them great pleasure, I am sure, by taking with you a man like me, who has the art of entertaining a company and making them merry. Say what you will, sir, I am resolved to go in spite of you.'
"These words, gentlemen, threw me into the greatest embarrassment. 'How can I possibly contrive to get rid of this infernal barber,' thought I to myself. 'If I continue obstinately to contradict him, our contest will never be finished.' I had already waited till they had called the people to noon prayers for the first time; and as it was now almost the moment to set out, I determined therefore not to answer him a single word, and to appear as if I agreed to everything he said. He finished shaving me, and he had no sooner done than I said to him, 'Take some of my people with you to carry these provisions home; then return here, I will wait, and not go without you.'
"He then went out, and I finished dressing myself as quickly as possible. I only waited till they called to prayers for the last time, when I hastened to commence my expedition; but this malicious barber, who seemed aware of my intention, was satisfied with accompanying my people only within sight of his own house, and seeing them go in. He afterwards concealed himself at the corner of the street, to observe and follow me. In short, when I got to the door of the cadi, I turned round and perceived him at the end of the street. This sight put me into the greatest rage.
"The cadi's door was half open, and when I went in I saw the old lady who was waiting for me, and who, as soon as she had shut the door, conducted me to the apartment of the young lady with whom I was so much in love. But I had hardly begun to enter into any conversation with her before we heard a great noise in the street. The young lady ran to the window, and looking through the blinds, perceived that it was the cadi, her father, who was already returning from prayers. I looked out at the same time, and saw the barber seated exactly opposite, and on the same bench from whence I had beheld the lady the first time.
"I had now two subjects for alarm, the arrival of the cadi, and the presence of the barber. The young lady dissipated my fears on the first, by telling me that her father very rarely came up into her apartment; but as she had foreseen that such an interruption might take place, she had prepared the means for my escape in case of necessity; but the indiscretion of that unlucky barber caused me great uneasiness, and you will soon perceive that this disquietude was not without foundation.
"As soon as the cadi was returned home, he himself inflicted the bastinado on a slave who had deserved it. The slave uttered loud cries, which were distinguishable even in the street. The barber thought I was the person whom they were treating ill, and that these were my cries. Fully persuaded of this, he began to call out as loud as he could, to tear his clothes, throw dust upon his head, and call for help to all the neighbours who ran out to him. They inquired what was the matter, and what assistance they could give him. 'Alas!' cried he, 'they are assassinating my master, my dear lord;' and without saying another word, he ran to my house, crying out in the same way, and returned, followed by all my servants armed with sticks. They knocked furiously at the door of the cadi, who sent a slave to know what the noise was about; but the slave, quite terrified, returned to his master. 'My lord,' said he, 'above ten thousand men will come into your house by force, and are already beginning to break open the door.'
"The cadi ran himself to the door and inquired what they wanted. His venerable appearance did not inspire my people with any respect, and they insolently addressed him, 'Cursed cadi! thou dog! for what reason art thou going to murder our master? What has he done to thee?' 'My good people,' replied the cadi, 'why should I murder your master, whom I do not know, and who has never offended me? My door is open, you may come in and search my house.' 'You have given him the bastinado,' said the barber; 'I heard his cries not a minute ago.' 'But,' replied the cadi, 'as I said before, in what can your master have offended me, that I should ill-treat him thus? Is he in my house? and if he is, how could he get in, or who could have introduced him?' 'Thou wilt not make me believe thee with thy great beard, thou wicked cadi,' resumed the barber; 'I know what I say. Your daughter loves our master, and appointed a meeting in your house during the midday prayers; you no doubt received information of it, and returned quickly; you surprised him here, and ordered your slaves to give him the bastinado; but this wicked action shall not remain unpunished: the caliph shall be informed of it, and will execute a severe and speedy sentence on you. Give him his liberty, and let him come out directly, otherwise we will go in and take him from you to your shame.' 'There is no occasion to say so much about it,' said the cadi, 'nor to make such a bustle; if what you say is true, you have only to go in and search for him I give you full permission.' The cadi had scarcely spoken these words when the barber and my people burst into the house, like a set of furious madmen, and began to seek for me in every corner.
"As I heard everything the barber said to the cadi, I endeavoured to find out some place to conceal myself in. I was unable to discover any other than a large empty chest, into which I immediately got, and shut the lid down upon me. After the barber had searched every other place, he did not fail coming into the apartment where I was. He went directly to the chest, and opened it; and as soon as he perceived that I was in it, he took it up and carried it away upon his head. He descended from the top of the staircase, which was very high, into a court, through which he quickly passed, and at last reached the street-door.
"As he was carrying me along the street, the lid of the chest unfortunately opened: I had not resolution enough to bear the shame and disgrace of being thus exposed to the populace who followed us; I jumped down, therefore, into the street in such a hurry that I hurt myself violently, and have been lame ever since. I did not at first perceive the full extent of my misfortune; I therefore made haste to get up, and run away from the people who were laughing at me. At the same time I scattered a handful or two of gold and silver, with which I had filled my purse, and while they were stopping to pick it up, I made my escape by passing through several private streets. But the cursed barber, taking advantage of the trick which I had made use of to get rid of the crowd, followed me so closely, that he never once lost sight of me; and all the time he continued calling aloud, 'Stop, sir, why do you run so fast? You know not how much I have felt for you on account of the ill-usage you have received from the cadi; and well I might, as you have been so generous to me and my friends, and we are under such obligations to you. Did I not truly inform you that you would endanger your life through your obstinacy, in not suffering me to accompany you? All this has happened to you through your own fault; and I know not what would have become of you if I had not obstinately determined to follow you, and observe which way you went. Where then, my lord, are you running? Pray wait for me.'
"It was in this manner that the unlucky barber kept calling out to me all through the street. He was not satisfied with having scandalised me so completely in the quarter of the town where the cadi resided, but seemed to wish that the whole city should become acquainted with my disgrace. This put me into such a rage that I could have stopped and strangled him, but that would only have increased my destruction. I therefore went another way to work. As I perceived that, by his calling out, the eyes of every one were attracted towards me, some looking out of their windows, and others stopping in the street to stare at me, I went into a khan, the master of which was known to me. I found him indeed at the door, where the noise and uproar had brought him. 'In the name of God,' I cried, 'do me the favour to prevent that mad fellow from following me in here.' He not only promised me to do so, but he kept his word, although it was not without great difficulty; for the obstinate barber attempted to force an entrance in spite of him. Nor did he retire before he uttered a thousand abusive words: and he continued to tell every one he met, till he reached his own house, the very great service he pretended to have done me.
"It was thus that I got rid of this tiresome man. The master of the khan then entreated me to give him an account of my adventure. I did so; after which I asked him in my turn to let me have an apartment in his house till I was quite cured. 'You will be much better accommodated, sir,' he said, 'in your own house.' 'I do not wish to return there,' I answered, 'for that detestable barber will not fail to find me out; I shall then be pestered with him every day, and it would absolutely kill me with vexation to have him constantly before my eyes. Besides, after what has happened to me this day, I am determined not to remain any longer in this city. I will wander wherever my ill stars may direct me.' In short, as soon as I was cured, I took as much money as I thought would be sufficient for my journey, and gave the remainder of my fortune to my relations.
"I then set out from Bagdad, gentlemen, and arrived here. I had every reason, at least, to hope that I should not have met with this mischievous barber in a country so distant from my own; and I now discover him in your company. Be not therefore surprised at my anxiety and eagerness to retire. You may judge of the painful sensations the sight of this man causes me, through whose means 1 became lame and was reduced to the necessity of giving up my relations, my friends, and my country."
Having made his speech, the lame young man got up and went out. The master of the house conducted him to the door, assuring him that it gave him great pain to have been the cause, though innocently, of so great a mortification.
When the young man was gone (continued the tailor), we still remained very much astonished at his history. We cast our eyes towards the barber, and told him that he had done wrong—if what we had just heard was true. "Gentlemen," answered he, raising his head, which he had till now kept towards the ground, "the silence which I have imposed upon myself while this young man was telling you his story ought to prove to you that he has advanced nothing that was not the fact; notwithstanding, however, all that he has told you, I still maintain that I ought to have done what I did, and I leave you yourselves to judge of it. Was he not thrown into a situation of great danger, and, without my assistance, would he so fortunately have escaped from it? He may, indeed, think himself very happy to have got free from it with only a lame leg. Was I not exposed to a much greater danger, in order to get him from a house where I thought he was so ill-treated? Has he, then, reason to complain of me, and to attack me with so many injurious reproaches? You see what we get by serving ungrateful people. He accuses me of being a chatterer; it is mere calumny. Of seven brothers, of whom our family consists, I am the very one who speaks least, and yet who possesses the most wit. In order to convince you of it, gentlemen, I have only to relate their story and my own to you. I entreat you to favour me with your attention."
So soon as the barber had spoken," said the tailor, we plainly perceived the young man was not wrong in accusing him of being a great chatterer. We nevertheless wished that he should remain with us, and partake of the feast which the master of the house had prepared for us. We then sat down at table, and continued to enjoy ourselves till the time of the last prayers before sunset. All the company then separated, and I returned to my shop, where I remained till it was time to shut it up and go to my house."